When buying an infant car seat, your first concern is obviously safety. After you’ve found one or more seats that meet or exceed all of the recommendations of a reputable organization like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, styles, features, prices and warranties will have more meaning.
Safety comes first when buying an infant car seat.
Measure and Weigh Your Child First
You choose the correct seat type for your child based on age and weight. For children less than one year old and less than 20 lbs., the NHSTA recommends a rear-facing seat. For children age one to four and 20 to 40 lbs., the NHSTA recommends a forward-facing toddler seat in the back seat of the car. From age four to eight, children should ride in booster seats in the back seat, unless they are approximately 4’9″ tall. For children this height, or older than eight years, safety belts are recommended. All children under the age of 12 should ride in the back seat.
Choose From One of the Two Main Seat Types
After you’ve headed to the store or online shopping site armed with your child’s measurements, choose between the two basic types of car seats available: infant car seats and infant-toddler (also known as a convertible car seat).
Infant Seat – Infant car seats are appropriate for infants and children up to 22 lbs. and you use them in a rear-facing configuration only. They come with a detachable base that allows you to remove the seat from its base each time you remove your child from the car, making it easier to place the seat back in the next time you drive.
Infant-Toddler – If your child is approximately 22 lbs. or more, purchase an infant-toddler seat she can use for a several years. Some models can be used rear-facing until a child weighs as much as 35 lbs. When your child has reached the suggested height and weight limits for this type of seat to be used in the rear-facing position, begin using the seat in the forward-facing position—hence the name, “convertible” seat.
Check out Convenience Features
Consider convenience features once you’ve determined the correct and safest type of seat for your child. For carrying ease, purchase an infant car seat with handles that are easy for you to use. Try lifting the seat from different angles, including bending down and with one hand, to gauge how easy it will be to use this seat. Check the padding in the seat; the more padding, the more comfortable it will be for your child. Finally, look at the material inside the car seat for cleaning instructions to judge how much maintenance will be required during the years you own it.
Consumer Reports: Getting Started – Car Seat Guide
The New Parent’s Guide: Choosing a Child Car Seat